What Are the Best Workout Routines to Build Muscle Mass?

Fact Checked

artwell/iStock/Getty Images

Workout routines that feature heavy weights, low repetitions, compound exercises and the progressive overload training principle prove to be the most beneficial for building muscle mass, according to the National Federation of Professional Trainers’ “Personal Fitness Trainer Manual.” Use a four- or five-day split routine to effectively target and exhaust each muscle every week and to maximize potential for muscle growth.

Low Reps, High Intensity

Perform four to six repetitions for each exercise in your workout routine to build muscle mass. Low rep ranges such as this support lean muscle growth. Maintain a very high intensity -- 100 percent effort -- to effectively target the muscle fibers. Use the heaviest weight possible that you can safely lift for four to six repetitions in order to optimally recruit muscle motor units for size increase, notes the “Personal Fitness Trainer Manual." Rest between 45 to 90 seconds between each set in a muscle mass routine to allow the muscles adequate rest time, recommends the American Council on Exercise.

Compound Exercises Stimulate Growth

Center your workout routines on compound exercises to stimulate growth. Compound exercises involve two or more muscle groups simultaneously, as opposed to isolation exercises which target only one muscle group. Select basic, effective compound movements as the framework for your routine such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench press, overhead barbell presses and pull-ups.

Split Routines for Mass

Use a split routine when attempting to build muscle mass. Split routines target one to three muscle groups per workout on alternating days, as opposed to a total body routine which works all the major muscles in a single workout. A four- or five-day split routine can effectively promote gains in lean muscle mass, according to trainer Tom Venuto in his book, “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.”

For example, a four-day split routine can target the chest and triceps on day one; back and biceps on day two; legs and shoulders on day three; and abs, forearms and traps on day four. Select three to five exercises for each muscle group and perform three to four sets of each exercise during your workout.

Caveats to Muscle Growth

Failure to use the progressive overload training principle will inhibit muscle growth. Use this principle by gradually increasing the amount of weight you use for each exercise, over the course of several weeks. Increase your load when six repetitions becomes easy in order to keep intensity high while using a four-to six-rep range.

You must also create a slight caloric surplus on most days of the week when adopting a muscle mass routine in order to fuel muscle growth and prevent over-training. Consume roughly 500 calories above your daily caloric maintenance level in order to build muscle mass, recommends the “Personal Fitness Trainer Manual."